Luxury waterside living may typically be associated with beachfront condos or a ranch overlooking a lake, but the humble canal is generating demand for city-dwellers who want a breath of fresh air on their doorstep and the ability to commute to work by kayak.
Demand, brokers say, is rising in cities you would traditionally associate with canal-living, such as Amsterdam and Venice, as well as in islets linked with waterways in Florida and the Bahamas, where the ability to moor a boat next to your property is a major selling point.
In London, city planners are drifting away from riverside planning and turning attention toward the British capital’s newly buzzing canals.
Many new waterside developments in the east of the city are being marketed for the access they provide to healthy activities. The promotional video for The Overdraught, a collection of nine apartments in Haggerston on the Regent’s Canal, where prices start at £565,000 (US$731,000), shows a bearded blogger paddling his kayak to his office in King’s Cross.
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Sarah Curtis, partner at agency Strutt & Parker, said waterside living is always in demand in the U.K., from seafronts to Scottish lochs, but canals in London are “very much on trend right now” and commanding an increasing premium.
“The River Thames is vast and is mostly edged by giant buildings and flats that are rarely for sale. To be by a city canal is a far more intimate and tranquil position, part of a more distinct city community,” Ms. Curtis said. “London’s extensive canal networks are still being discovered by developers hungry for new waterside locations, often built with new trendy restaurants and bars.”
London sees surge in canal-side developments
There are more than a dozen development projects underway on Paddington’s canal and Paddington Basin, at the intersection of Regent’s and Grand Junction canals in the west of the city, including buildings designed by British star architects such as Sir Richard Rogers, Nicholas Grimshaw and Terry Farrell.
One of the newest developments, Paddington Gardens, which is expected to be completed at the end of 2018, will have 335 apartments, offices, restaurants shops and a hotel, plus an acre of greenery.
Michael Bickerton, head of U.K. new homes for Cushman & Wakefield, said he has seen an increase in buyers wanting to live alongside the Regent’s Canal in London, which runs north of the Thames from west to east, and offers a “peaceful yet vibrant setting with the activity of the leisure barges and boats.”
“The public use towpaths for pleasant walks and the canals for water sport, such as canoeing,” he said. “There is also the added benefit of the nature; canals offer a sanctuary for wildlife that you are not always fortunate to see in the heart of a major city.
“Being canal-facing you also have the protection of knowing other buildings cannot be built directly in front of you, a more increasingly common concern within London, as land available with the potential for development becomes ever more difficult to find,” Mr. Bickerton added.
From his experience, he believes a canal outlook attracts around a 10% price premium in London.
Canal living popular outside of London
In the east of the city, young professionals and families are snapping up flats surrounding newly regenerated waterways around Olympic Park.
And canals in northern U.K. cities, such as Birmingham and Manchester are also being reborn, as desirable places to live. Apartments in the new Potato Wharf development in Manchester, adjacent to Victorian viaducts, are helping to recreate the warehouse relationship that used to frame either side of the city’s canal basins when the area was a key industrial interchange.
Birmingham, with its 100 miles of canal navigations, has more waterways than Venice, and an influx of young professionals over the past couple of years is pushing up demand for luxury high-end apartments along the canals.
“If you have a job in the city and love to socialize, an apartment along the canal is perfect, with easy access to the best amenities as well as the best views,” said Clint Nykamp, Partner at agents Fine & Country in Birmingham. “The best place to open restaurants and bars is also along canals. The renowned Mailbox, which has designer shops, backs onto the canal where there are several bars and restaurants, including one by celebrity chef Marco Pierre White.”
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Canal-front living can be had at a premium
Premiums can be much higher for canal-front homes in other parts of the world, too.
In the Bahamas, for example, canal-front properties typically command a 30% to 50% premium over comparable land-locked properties in the same community, said Nick Damianos, an estate agent at Damianos Sotheby’s International Realty, which has offices throughout the Bahamas.
The draw here is boating. In an archipelago of over 700 islands, people will pay a lot more to have a home where they can keep a boat a few steps from their back door.
John Christie, vice president and managing broker at HG Christie Ltd in Nassau, said the premium can be as much as 100% in a highly desirable location with little supply, such as the Bahamas’s Lyford Cay. For sale through HG Christie is a $3 million, five-bedroom villa in Old Fort Bay, where you could sit in your backyard in canal-side terrace and dangle your toes in a crystal-clear waterway that leads out to the ocean.
Canal-side living is not something you might associate with Spain, but in Empuriabrava, known as Spain’s Venice because of its 24 kilometers of canals and 5,000 private jetties, Engel & Volkers is marketing a development sandwiched between the canal network and the sea, with easy access to the Mediterranean and the Aiguamolls nature reserve.
It is one of the only places in Spain where you can moor your boat right in front of your house, which is proving to be a major selling point, said agent Nadine Wendt, director of Engel & Volkers Empuriabrava. The bigger the mooring the more the property will fetch, she said.
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Real canal aficionados will, of course look to the Netherlands or Venice for some of the best canal-side properties in the world, because of the myriad options available.
Canal-side homes in Amsterdam can command a 15% to 20% premium compared to similar sized houses on canal-side streets. But one of the most beautiful canal-ringed cities in the Netherlands is Delft, known for its pottery, and it’s increasingly attracting international buyers from Asia, Turkey and the U.S. Here you will pay 15% more to live on the water, said Leslie D.T. de Ruiter, managing partner of Residence 365, based in Rotterdam.
And in Venice, a city that’s synonymous with canals, houses alongside these bodies of water are always in highest demand, said Ann Marie Dole of Venice Sotheby’s.
“The Grand Canal is the most prestigious location and offers some of the grandest properties, with high ceilings and impressive water frontage. These are some of the most iconic properties in the world, built by some of the wealthiest families of the Republic, captured throughout history in famous paintings,” she said. “The Grand Canal is the main thoroughfare in Venice and there is an enduring appeal and charm in watching its comings and goings.”
And, she added, “Property on quieter canals, more accurately called Rios, such as the Rio del Duca or Rio dei Mendicanti, offer access to more intimate and discrete locations throughout Venice, which offer their own charm, many with canal views. While historically significant, in comparison to some Grand Canal properties they may feel more ordinary, if that is possible in Venice.”
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Below, four canal-side homes currently for sale, in the Bahamas, Venice, Spain and Florida.